If you've spent much time online at all this month, you probably have seen ads, social media posts, and news articles reminding everyone that April is Autism Awareness Month. There are reasons we give a whole month to spreading awareness for this condition and, to be fair, some people, like autism moms, feel one month just isn't enough.
Kerry Peterson oversees programs at Kaufman Children's Center and says receiving the first-time diagnosis can be a very isolating experience. Families don't know where to turn for help or if their friends will be understanding, so they're often left to go it alone. Fortunately, autism moms and other family members can turn to places like Kaufman to get access to organizations and other resources that can help.
Misconceptions Affect Treatment
Another reason we need to spend a whole month (or more) raising awareness is that people don't understand who is really affected by the condition. Certainly, we know about young autistic children, but media attention on that group means little notice is paid to older teens and adults with the same condition. Treatments are geared toward younger children, which means parents of older teens have few avenues of help. If better treatment options can be implemented for teens, the unemployment rate for autistic adults may eventually drop below its current 80% rate.
Families Must Choose Between School and Therapy
Most people don't realize that treatment presents problems in itself. In order to get treatment, children are forced to miss out on school. In most cases, this means missing a full day of school, while receiving treatment. As schools and treatment facilities don't work in tandem, the child's education suffers. The only alternative for families at this time is to send their child to school without treatment, which isn't really an alternative at all.
Creating More Accepting Communities
Finally, the biggest benefit of taking the month of April to spread awareness is in helping communities become more understanding. When most people hear the word "autism," they think of children with behavioral problems. While behavior can be affected by the condition, that should not be the defining characteristic. Instead, neighbors and local business owners should be educated to understand more about this condition, so the children and teens suffering from it won't be judged as harshly. Once the fear has been replaced with knowledge, children will feel more welcome and families will be more trusting.
Spread Autism Awareness